This Chron story is about “supporters and opponents” of the “Heights” Wal-Mart debuting their webpages. See if you can spot the problem with this:
The opponents, led by a group of concerned citizens who began organizing around a Facebook website in mid-July, have formed the nonprofit group Responsible Urban Development for Houston.
“We are a community organization devoted to preserving the character, traditions, and appearance of the Heights and West End neighborhoods in Houston,” states the group’s website, www.rudh.org. “It is our goal to represent our neighbors before local government, to educate the community about the potential impacts of real estate development on our infrastructure, environment, taxpayer-funded public services, and quality of life.”
The new organization, whose website was created Aug. 2, complements the opposition group’s more extensive site, www.stopheightswalmart.org, which has been active since July 26.
Supporters of the proposed store, which would be placed on 16 acres near Yale and Koehler streets, last week began mailing promotional flyers to homes in several areas of the inner loop under the name Friends of Wal-Mart. The group gives its address as a P.O. Box.
The mailing states that project would “take an unused piece of property that is much in need of remediation and convert it into a specially-designed store that will be a safe, productive addition to the community. The custom design of this Wal-Mart, with consideration given to landscaping, lighting, and sustainable design, will mean that this property blends in with the surrounding community.”
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. also has set up a website, www.walmarthouston.com, similar to its walmartchicago.com and walmartbaltimore.com sites, to form a “community action network” to lobby for the project. The locally-themed site was created July 27.
So the former is a bunch of folks who live near the construction site who don’t want to see a Wal-Mart built in their neighborhood, and the latter is…Wal-Mart itself. Does that really count as “supporters”? I know there are people, some of whom even live in the area, that do want to see the Wal-Mart get built. But they’re not sending out mailers or putting up websites, and to equate them with the genuinely grassroots opposition to the Wal-Mart is misleading. And just as a reminder, Excited About Heights Wal-Mart has 18 fans. Stop Heights Wal-Mart has over 5500. These are not the same things.
On a related note, CM Ed Gonzalez has taken a position in the debate.
Ed Gonzalez, whose district includes the proposed Wal-Mart site at Yale and Koehler streets, this week hopped down from the neutral fence on which he’d been sitting since the plan became public in early July.
“I was open-minded, to try to listen and gather as much information as possible, but at this point in time, with the information in hand, I have serious concerns about this development,” Gonzalez said Tuesday at a meeting of the Greater Heights Super Neighborhood Council. “I support development, but I am at the point where I don’t think this is going to be the right development for the community.”
Gonzalez cited the impact of the proposed project on nearby neighborhoods as his chief concern.
“Even if you do infrastructure improvements to provide better access to and from the retail development, it will feed more traffic into the neighborhoods, and those streets are very narrow,” he said. “Any amount of added vehicular traffic on those streets is not a good thing. It’s a 24-hour operation, you have heavy trucks coming through … it’s a quality-of-life issue.”
We’ll see how that affects other Council members. The article also notes some frustration with the way the Parker administration is handling this. That may make tonight’s public meeting more interesting.